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This oil sketch is one of Constable’s most dramatic studies of sea and sky. It was made in Brighton on England’s south coast while he was visiting his ill wife, who was hoping to help her tuberculosis by escaping London’s smoky air.

The artist made many sea sketches in Brighton, sitting on the beach with a paint box balanced on his knees and a sheet of paper pinned to the lid. He was fascinated by the way light and weather conditions could transform a familiar place. Here, he has captured the fleeting moment when a shaft of sunlight suddenly breaks through the storm clouds.

Constable said that “The world is wide. No two days are alike, nor even two hours; neither were there ever two leaves of a tree alike since the creation of all the world; and the genuine productions of art, like those of nature, are all distinct from each other. … In a sketch, there is nothing but the one state of mind – that which you were in at the time.”

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